The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) recently accepted the resignation of a Massachusetts attorney, who misappropriated proceeds from the sale of real estate. In the matter of John H. Wyman, an attorney was hired to probate a will, which stated that real estate owned by the decedent was to be devised to a Florida charity. The charity informed the attorney that it wished to sell the property and use the proceeds to further its charitable mission.
The property was subsequently sold, and the attorney deposited the funds from the sale into his Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account (“IOLTA”). Several months later, the attorney made a partial distribution of the sale proceeds to the charity, and stated that he had retained the balance of over $100,000 in order to resolve a claim against the estate. However, there was no such claim, and the attorney applied the funds for his personal use.
The attorney failed to account to the charity for the missing funds, and his conduct was reported to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”). The attorney eventually repaid the estate, but he had deprived the charity of these funds for over three (3) years in violation of Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(b) and (c) and 8.4(c) and (h). The attorney also failed to hold the funds in a separate interest-bearing account and did not maintain proper accounting records for the funds, as required by Mass. R. Prof. C. Rules 1.15(f) (1) (A) – (G).
In response to the BBO’s investigation, the attorney submitted an affidavit of resignation, which the board recommended the SJC accept. Justice Duffly of the SJC accepted the attorney’s resignation.
Decision: In Re: John H. Wyman